Rudolph Byrd ’75
Distinguished Alumnus Award
The late Rudolph P. Byrd graduated as the first African American recipient of the Rena Ratte Award. He went on to graduate studies at Yale University before beginning a distinguished career as a prolific scholar and beloved teacher at Emory University.
Rudolph P. Byrd graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 1975 as the first African American recipient of the Rena Ratte Award. He went on to earn two master’s degrees and a PhD from Yale University and then to a distinguished career as a prolific scholar and beloved teacher at Emory University. At Emory he served as the Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts and the Department of African American Studies. In 2010 Byrd was awarded Emory’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award, the university’s premier award for significant service to the institution through personal activities, influence, and leadership. He was the founding director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute for Interdisciplinary Study. He was also responsible for securing and administering the Alice Walker Archives for Emory University.
Byrd, who died in 2011, will be remembered for his influence and leadership extending far beyond Emory. He was a respected national authority and frequent commentator on the modern civil rights movement, images of blacks in the media, and politics and intergenerational dialogues. A prolific author and editor, Byrd worked on numerous books and contributed essays, reviews, and editorials to publications including The Oxford Companion to African American Literature and the Washington Post. In addition to Emory’s Thomas Jefferson Award, Byrd received many awards and fellowships during his lifetime, including the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at Harvard University and the Dorothy Danforth Compton Fellowship at Yale University.